The Raising of Lazarus
John 11, 1-44
Many of us are familiar with the quiet family retreat at Bethany where our Lord Jesus spend many happy hours with his very dear friends Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus. The Bible makes it clear that their home was a special retreat for him.
Thus we begin today with our focus on …
THE SCENE …This Bethany Home was a favourite! The kind of place we all love to visit, a home from home, a place where we can be ourselves, put up our feet, and maybe even have a nap. These two sisters lived there with their brother, and it is evident that the warm friendship and fellowship of all three meant a great deal to the Saviour.
Luke 10, 38 and the verses following tell us that Martha was regularly busy with the usual household chores and activities. Showing hospitality was an important gift of hers, especially when Jesus was calling. Mary, her sister, however – was a very different person, loving rather to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen and learn from His great ways and words of wisdom. And Lazarus, was caught in the middle, maybe Mothered or Smothered by his two sisters, (who knows) but clearly it was a loving happy home.
John 11, 5 tells us that Jesus LOVED Martha, Mary & Lazarus and loved to spend time in their company at Bethany. Is your home a place where Jesus would find a welcome, and a place where He would love to visit, if He were around today?
Or if he suddenly came calling – are there some changes you would hurry to make, before you could open the door?
Is your home a place of harmony, a heaven or a hell on earth. Home life speaks volumes about our values and priorities. A few minutes inside your front door and I can see a hundred things about your personality and character. Its all there – how you manage your surroundings. Now there is nothing wrong about having a nice home, a comfortable home, a user/friendly home, unless of course the home has you!
By that I mean, when we become gripped mastered and controlled by a desire to have a home that is better than anyone else’s! A “keeping up appearances” mentality that spends time effort and money on things instead of on family. Do you know that a happy contentment can be the most enhancing furnishings you can own! I thank God that I was raised by a Mother and Father whose home life was summed up in a text that hung over our kitchen table and read “Christ is the Head of this house, the unseen guest at every meal, the silent listener to every conversation.” You don’t raise your voice when Jesus is listening, you don’t swear and curse when Jesus is at the table, you don’t throw a fit when Jesus is in the company. Who is at the Head of your Home? A home will always look differently from the driveway, than it does from the hallway. Are there secrets behind your front door that would horrify your neighbours and friends – if they could see inside? Remember that what others cannot see, God can always see!
Now we read that into this home at Bethany came sickness…
John 11v3 tells us that Mary and Martha sent a message to Jesus saying “he who you love is sick.”
So the canvas changes from the SCENE to THE SICKNESS
We are not told the details of what it was that was wrong with Lazarus, but the fact was that he was sick and getting worse, for on several occasions messages were relayed in sequence to where Jesus was. Lazarus is sick, then is sicker, then is sick unto death?
Each time they send word, to Jesus, but Jesus did not respond, he did not show up? Have there been times in your life when Jesus has not showed up when you needed him, you prayed, you cried, you agonized, – but there was no seeming response to your pleading? I’ve been there – have you?
The long term result of such Divine Silences, are usually that Fear sets in, Accusations set in, Offence sets in; and maybe even Self Pity and if we are not careful, (before long) instead of being our friend, Jesus will seem more like an enemy?
Can’t you just imagine the kind of arguments that may have ensued between Mary and Martha? One blaming the other, one giving the blame, one taking the blame, and so on. You see disappointments can have all kinds of negative effects on the human soul. Mary and Martha must have felt very let down, forsaken, rejected, maybe even disowned by the Lord. He who had been their friend, was no longer friendly, he who had been their support was no longer any help. Lazarus was sick unto death, Lazarus way dying, but Jesus did not show up – so it seemed
that heaven was shut up!
Perhaps today you are sick – sick of life, sick of your job, sick of your home life, sick of your struggle to make ends meet, sick of being in pain, sick of being in the mess you call life, feeling deserted by friends and forsaken by God. Sick of the sin in your life, sick of the drugs, the sex, the alcohol, the parties, the shallowness of friends, the inconsistencies of the Church, the hypocrisy of those who claim to care,- but don’t. Yet, as I have discovered – in every sickness, the human heart is drawn God-ward, for there is a light that has dawned on every heart (John 1:9) that suggests hope in the midst of despair. My Mother used to say, “When there is no earthly hope, there is always Heavenly Help” Corrie ten Boom the great Dutch evangelist writes, …….
“there is no pit so deep, but that Jesus is deeper still.”
So Mary and Martha were in a deep pit, but still, Jesus did not come! Let me teach you that in the silences of God, you can be absolutely sure that he is up to something on your behalf. You are not being neglected, or ignored, in fact the very opposite is often true. God is working out a plan to give you more than you expect, and to prove himself to be God in your mess as well as in your mind.
Then Lazarus Dies
So we move on from The Scene, and the Sickness to the SADNESS
Lazarus their brother died and again the message is hurriedly sent to Jesus Lazarus is dead … Lazarus is buried…
And still there was nothing from Jesus, no response … a deadening and deafening Silence, which underlined their isolation, and undermined their confidence.
Now they ask the question WHY? And what about the Why’s in your life, and the Why’s in mine? Are there not a whole host of unanswered questions, unresolved problems, unfinished tasks, unbelievable experiences, unending pressures which you and I have had no response from God, and WHY?
Lazarus was sick, and Jesus did not show up. Lazarus was sick to death, and still he did not show. Lazarus was dead, and he did not show. Lazarus was buried and still there was no response.
Now the Sadducees a religious sect of that day, mistakenly believed that at death, the human spirit did not leave the body until after 3 days, and although the body was embalmed, and wrapped in grave bandages, and buried, the spirit remained for 3 days. So it could well be said that this is why – not until the Forth Day after Lazarus had died, did Jesus make his appearances. I have no doubt that Jesus was eager to give them a miracle, but it had to be unmistakably Jesus.
I am happy to be able to tell you today, and this assurance I have, is based not only on the promises of Scripture, but from my own many troubling experiences, – to tell you that Jesus has a miracle for you too. He must often wait so that when the miracle shows, you will know it was Jesus – and not of any mans doing. Death is not the end, the end is not the end, even though it looks like the end. When you have reached the bottom of the well, remember Jesus is deeper still!
The Scene, the Sickness, the Sadness
are but instruments in the hand of God to lead us to
v17, tells us that Jesus shows up after 4 days, and already things begin to look a little different. But things always Change for the better with Jesus around. And Mary and Martha knew that He could and would make a difference.
Have you asked him about making a difference in your life, in your situation, but he has not showed, or at least not yet. I say “not yet” because I fully believe that we will see from this story that God has his time, as well as his plans. God is not hurried, there is no panic in Heaven.
Look at the words of both Mary and Martha
v32 “…Lord if only you had been here…” Clearly a Recognition of His Power and Ability, but lacking in FAITH
JESUS WAS PLANNING TO DO EXCEEDINGLY
ABUNDANTLY and ABOVE ALL THEY COULD ASK
“If only” is a phrase I have heard on my occasions in 38 years of ministry. Like me, there will be many of you who will wish you could turn the clock back today, and return to better days. “If only” implies, and impresses upon my mind the fact that both these Sisters, knew little of the true Character of Jesus. For “if only” they had believed Him, in his truth and in his teachings, they would have realized that he would never have forgotten nor forsaken them. In fact although he was not with them in their crisis physically, he was always with them in Spirit. (as he is with every one of his children) He knew exactly what was going on at Bethany, he saw their aching hearts, he saw their tears, and wept himself over their lack of faith. I almost hear him return the comment saying “if only you had believed.” For not only could he raise the dead, he was himself the Resurrection and the Life!
He shows up after four days to do two things, to confound his enemies who doubted his power, and to prove His love for his own. God does not only want to prove His love to YOU, but to confound your enemies, into the understanding that you are truly on the Lords side, truly favoured, truly blessed, truly anointed.
Be patient and believe……”The trial or testing of your Faith worketh patience” (James 1:3 ) … He will show up!
So Jesus comes to the grave, and the scriptures tells us that by this time the body is stinking and they’re all are trying to dissuade him against proceeding any further. But Jesus is not concerned about Public Opinion – and he cries out …
“LAZARUS COME FORTH”
…..or come out, ……..and you can see the family, friends and the crowd wait in expectation. First of all there is a sound, a rumbling from inside the tomb, and they imagine it, or is something really happening – and then to their amazement, still wrapped up in the grave clothes Lazarus appears. ALIVE and Jesus adds “loose him and let him go.”
The miracle of giving life, belongs to Jesus, but we are all called to help loose people who are bound up, and set them free. They could never have imaged it, the Solution to their scene of sickness and sadness. And my dear friends, God has in store for you and me, the things which have never entered into our imagination either! Don’t give up, but give your problem over to Gods plan and purpose.
Gods silences are meant to bring us to the place of
Total and Absolute reliance on His Wisdom to do what is Best and Right for us.
So we have witnessed the SCENE , THE SICKNESS , THE SOLUTION ,
All of which leads me finally to THE SERVICE
v44 “loose (untie) him and let him go”
All around us there are those who the Bible warns are Dead in trespasses and Sin, they are trapped, and bound in things that hold so tightly – they have no hope of release unless you and I can help them free. It is a ministry to which we are all called, (not just the Preacher or Pastor) and although it may not be easy, and very much like raising the dead, (for many these days dwell in dead places, with dead entanglements, and deadened senses) Yet we can offer them hope, and we can introduce them to the one who is the Resurrection and the Life.
You may be one of those “bound up” today – tied, shackled, bound to something or someone, or some set of circumstances from which you long to be free. Things don’t look good, and they haven’t looked good for a long time now, and you are beginning to despair and lose hope. It appears that in your life also, heaven has been shut up, God does not appear to hear you, no-one seems to care, even the Church-going Christians are passing you by on the other side – many of them too pre-occupied in their own affairs to notice your cheeks are wet with tears, and your eyes are red with crying.
But let this story of Lazarus and His Sisters warm your cold heart this Sunday. Let it lift you from the sadness of Loss, to the gladness of Life. Jesus said “Come unto me all you who are tired and weary – and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28) There is a rest for you today – and its there for the asking. The Hymn writer puts it …
If you are tired of the load of your sin, let Jesus come into your heart: If you have tried a new life to begin, let Jesus come into your heart:
Just now your doubting give o’er, just now reject him no more, just now throw open the door and let Jesus come into your heart”
Many years ago as a young student for Ministry in my early twenties, and in a very dark and difficult time, when I was separated from my family for the most part of a year, I found great comfort and courage in the words of an old poem, called
“The Weaving” – and with its words I’ll end today…
The poet says,
“My life is but a weaving between my Lord and me
I do not chose the colours, he worketh steadily
Oft times, he weaveth sorrow, and I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper, and I the under-side.
Not till the loom is silent, and the shuttle cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas, and explain the reason why
The dark threads are as needful in the skilful weavers hands,
As the threads of Gold and Silver in the Pattern he has planned”
So like Mary and Martha remember that while you see your side of the story, your side of the problem, God sees His side, and God has no problems – just plans.
And is my prayer that our Heavenly Father, will write these precious truths from the story of Lazarus upon the fabric of all of our hearts,
God Bless You … AMEN